Kamehachi's owner, Marion Konishi, belonged to a community of Japanese-Americans that immigrated to Chicago in the 1940s. Aspiring to bring the colorful customs of Japan to the streets of the Windy City, Konishi put her money where her mouth (and the era's bland Midwestern palate) was, and in 1967 treated Chicago to its very first sushi bar.
Midwesterners aren't the only folks whose taste buds have been tantalized; the list of celebrities who have awkwardly fumbled with chopsticks at Kamehachi reads like a whoís who of sashimi lovers. Now under the ownership of Konishi's granddaughter, Giulia Sindler, the joint remains a comfortable place to roll or eat rolls, whatever your "scene" may be.
The first floor resembles a typical sushi bar: small, intimately arranged tables (read: this is a euphemism for thisclosetogether) and a long counter behind which knife-yielding men perform their magic. The second level, which boasts the newer Kamehachi Cafe, offers a relatively clubby atmosphere with a cocktail bar, dim lighting and "music that wonít necessarily be ocean waves," says a Kamehachi staffer. The garden patio, featuring a retractable roof, is a great place to chow down year round and the ideal locale for parties of twenty or more.
Hereís what to expect at the end of your chopsticks: Kamehachiís menu offers a wide selection of nigiri sushi, sashimi, maki mono and sake. Upgrade your typical ramen dinner with udon soup for some real noodle-slurpiní action. If youíre still a little queasy about the raw fish situation, go for the Beginnerís Sushi 101: a selection of California rolls, cucumber rolls and a shrimp and egg omelet. No raw fish there, so itís perfect for chickens.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg